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Why there’s a ‘value’ in value proposition!

Everyone who starts or runs a business, designs or markets a product will come across the necessity to create a value proposition. Something that adds values to the inputs of the business or product to the customer. Ideally that proposition is unique, and helps the business or product stand out. I’ll use the term business to mean both businesses and products from here on, for simplicity and because selling a product is a simple form of a whole business.

When this term comes up, it is often very abstract and diffuse. The business founder feels strongly about her idea and rationalizes the value to the customer. This sometimes gets a bad rap, and founders get told to start with what customers want, what solves their problems, and work backwards from there.

The result of this is what I’d call weak value propositions. This value propositions exist because the founder wants to be in business, or create an enterprise, and finds what looks good, or consults a business idea list or a trend list. While this can be a ‘smart’ choice, the resulting value proposition will have little to offer to help rally customers or employees into meaningful action. These value propositions can be humdrum to hack-ey or worse, downright scam-ey.

And this brings me to the core of this post. A real value proposition results from believing something about the world. From actually having values. These values compel the founder to action. They make writing copy or communicating your goals easy and meaningful.

For instance, Steve Jobs, to further beat a dead horse, valued beauty. He thought that computers have to be beautiful inside and out. That customers would value that, and pay a handsome premium. While this is conventional wisdom now, it certainly wasn’t then. In this regard, he won. His value proposition, coming from a deep believe in how the world should be, proved to be so right, that the resulting company is now so big and valuable, that some argue it should be broken up!

This illustrates the second kind of value propositions. Strong value propositions. Strong because they reflect a real value the founder has. This cannot be faked or rationalized. It comes from an authentic need to help change the world and make it better.

Dear reader, when you think about a value proposition for a business the next time, please stop, take a deep breath and ask yourself, how you’d want that business to impact the world. How it should change it. That will create a powerful start for the best work you ever did.

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The immediacy of tools

„The medium is the message“ – this quote by Marshal Mc Luhan has many truths and depths hidden in a surprisingly simple sentence.

I don’t think it starts out that way. In the beginning the medium is a tool, a means to convey an information from source to destination. While it colors, distorts and even dictates some of the delivery it is first and foremost a means to an end.

But since all human endeavor is always self referential as time goes by the effect of the medium becomes more apparent and both the sender and the receiver begin to skew their communication to maximise the effect in the given medium.

This elevates the medium gradually from tool to master. From medium to message.

Simply because we start to experience our world through this tool and through this medium.

The tool becomes our immediate experience of the world. And not the source of using the tool.


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Limits of AI – inklings of

I adore Jeff Jonas work for IBM, and his take on Big Data. So from time to time I check his blog. I stumbled upon his update on the G2 sensemaking engine a while ago. As I reread it today a thought struck me: One of the limits to AI stems not from the algorithms deployed, or their processing power. But from their access to input, to data. From their lack of senses, if you will.

AIA human infant is born with all 5 senses wide open, and an infinte stream of information constantly available, or, more concise, unmutable. Human senses seem custom tailored to interface reality. Much has been written about the ability of the unconcious to parallel-process Megabits of information vs. the 7 or so bits the concious mind can access simultaneously.

Computers on the other hand have to rely on humans to feed them information. Now we have two problems at hand here:

1) Translational loss: As information is digitized, a lot of context gets lost and left out, equaling a substantial bandwidth reduction.

2) Selection bias: In decinding what to feed an algorithm, we choose what’s important for us, vs what would be optimal for AI performance. A nontrivial issue as algorithms scale in complexity.

This in turn severely limits an AIs ability to truly learn and scale. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on AI. But this clearly merits some consideration. If you have any input or information on how this is addressed please share.

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building the perfect NAS

I recently bought a Zyxel NSA 210 NAS, which, truth be told, really really sucks. No telnet, No ssh, you can only administer it via a rather slow and cumbersome web interface, that takes all of my patience just to copy all the music I have to the folder I wish to.

I shortly experimented with using an FFP stick, but the system wasn’t that stable, leaving me unable to login to the web interface after a couple of days use for more than once.

So, I decided to get rid of it, and finding QNAP and Synology a little expensive for my liking I found I could build my own NAS. The ingredients:

  • Intel D425 KT Desktop board – Atom processor, 10W TDP, passive cooling, 50€, yes!
  • The 1,5 GB Samsung HD that I have in my Zyxel
  • picoPSU 80W power supply
  • TP-Link Gigabit NIC
  • 1 GB SO-DIMM DDR3 RAM

Total cost will be about 110€ – on par with the small QNAPs – but I can install the OS of MY choice, Ubuntu Server, Fedora, Debian 6…. even Win Server if I wanted to. Eat that run-of-the-mill NAS!

I’m going to put all that in a soapbox for some gritty industrial good-looks. Stay tuned for pics!